The towering granite spires and snowy summits of Denali National Park and Preserve straddles 160 miles of the Alaska Range and display so much elevation they are often lost in the clouds. Dominating this skyline is North America's highest peak; Mount McKinley standing tall at 20,320 feet and one of the most amazing sights in Alaska.
But it's not just the mountain that makes Denali National Park a special place. The park is also home to 37 species of mammals, ranging from lynx, marmots and Dall sheep, to foxes and snowshoe hares, while 130 different bird species have been spotted here, including the impressive golden eagle. Most visitors, however, want to see four animals in particular: moose, caribou, wolf and everybody's favorite: the brown, or grizzly, bear. Here at Denali, unlike most wilderness areas in the country, you don't have to be a backpacker to see this wildlife - people who never sleep in a tent have excellent once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to get a close look at these magnificent creatures roaming free in their natural habitat.
Not surprisingly then, visitors come here in droves; the park is a popular place, attracting 432,000 visitors annually. Over the years the National Park Service (NPS) has developed unique visitor-management strategies, including closing its only road to most vehicles. As a result Denali National Park is still the great wilderness it was 20 years ago. The entrance has changed, but the park itself hasn't, and a brown bear meandering on a tundra ridge still provides the same quiet thrill as it did when the park first opened in 1917.
Although generations of Athabascans had wandered through what is now the park, the first permanent settlement was established in 1905, when a gold miners' rush gave birth to the town of Kantishna. A year later, naturalist and noted hunter Charles Sheldon was stunned by the beauty of the land and horrified at the reckless abandon of the miners and big-game hunters. Sheldon returned in 1907 and traveled the area with guide Harry Karstens in an effort to set up boundaries for a proposed national park. Sheldon was successful as the area was established as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917 with Karstens serving as the park's first superintendent. As a result of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the park was enlarged to more than 6 million acres and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali now comprises an area slightly larger than the state of Massachusetts and is generally ranked as one of Alaska's top attractions.


Currumbin, Australia

A travellers view of Currumb in Queensland Australia: Yesterday I had the pleasure of lunch here at Currumbin Surf Club, as you can see from today's pictures the Surf club itself is built directly on a large geographical feature of the area, Elephant rock.

Why anybody would choose to spoil such an interesting feature let alone for a council to allow it, is beyond me but there it is. I have visited this venue before, Father's Day 2007 and so I have inside information that the lunch will be excellent regardless of the positioning of the club.
The rock, is of course the more interesting, I think rocks are sort of interesting because they are what they are, where they are and shaped the way they, are all of which would seem at random, at it doesn't matter what you or I think, they have plonked themselves down and that's that as far as the rock is concerned. We humans need to put in a great deal of work with hammers or explosives to make a difference in their rock world.

This big rock looks to be igneous in nature and the result of an angry volcanic eruption (can there be any other kind?) and has been vomited from the earth to solidify in the hilly area inland of the seafront, which of course at the time eons ago may well have been somewhere, anywhere about here. The monolithic boulder possibly rolled from its perch above the beachfront where it came to rest on a platform of brother rocks who no doubt welcome it in a civil happy and certainly not with a stoney silence. Rocks, stones, boulders etc speak in a frequency not heard by mere human ears.
Elephant rock and the table it appears to rest on seem very new geologically speaking because there appears little erosion from the wind, salt air and wave action and if we look north we can see another rocky sibling jutting proudly from the beach in an area known as Currumbin Alley which I gather is a name generated from the surfing culture which as you can imagine is very prevalent here.
Within a few miles of this very spot the local district claims ownership of several World Surfing Champions including current hero and world ranked No. 1 Mick Fanning and current Women's champion Stephanie Gilmore who was born around the corner or at least a short distance from here up the Tweed River at Murwillumbah I will be doing an entry on Murwillumbah in the next few days.
Currumbin Alley marks the southern edge of the entrance to Currumbin Creek which is a tidal waterway fed by the Salty Ocean during high tides and mountain fed fresh water during low tide. This leads to brackish water quite close to the outflow adjacent to Currumbin Alley and is apparently an area in which it is possible to encounter the notorious Bull Shark. This estuary dweller seems to prefer brackish tidal depths and is very much adapted to seeking its food in murky water.

As we proceed up the creek the clarity declines as the leaf and earth stained fresher water becomes predominant. The use of fresh water seems a little misleading here but of course I mean non salty water. When it first trickled down from the wonderful Border Ranges far above in the catchment area, the water was as almost as fresh as water can be. As we get to know each other better(reader and scribe) you will find I do not enjoy swimming, lolling, floating, soaking, wading, splashing or generally getting wet in water that is not clear. Like most things there is a reason but that story is for another day.

So lets about face and retreat along the murky parts of Currumbin Creek and be dazzled by one of the loveliest stretches of yellow glowing sand in a nation of lovely yellow glowing beaches. Even the erstwhile British tourist does not feel the need to wear a handkerchief with knots tied in the corners on a balding or even hirsute pate. Why on earth our British cousins allowed Aussies like me (I was born in the UK incidentally) to have this image of English manhood I will never know. Imagine a latin lover boy with the Andalusian accent of the Spanish gigolo emerging from the sea, brown muscles glistening from the crystal clear waters of Currumbin Beach with his daggy trousers rolled above the knees and wearing a four corner tied handkerchief plastered to his head.

Oh Dear! could this be the beginning of an international incident. As if we Aussies are never portrayed in foreign press as anything but fine upstanding incredibly great looking young people. "Where the Bloody hell are ya's". Ms Lara Bingle or her former paramouror cricketer Michael Clarke, are fine examples of what all Australian look like. Well that's the portrayal we wish to believe, not that Stephanie Gilmore or Mick Fanning are hard on the eyes to their respective opposite sexes or of course in some cases, same sexes.

To the north of Currumbin Beach is the commercially named Palm Beach which although it has much of the aforementioned glowing yellow sand and sunshine liberally applied to tanned and less tanned new arrivals alike, there are few Palm trees to be seen other than in the occasional suburban backyard. Nevertheless the atmosphere is generally holiday plus, for the family lucky enough to visit this part of the world. Here there's a little extra bonus for folk like me.... the water is a perfect temperature and generally beautifully refreshing, no Irukanji stingers here, no stone fish, sometimes ablue bottle will appear and best of all....few bull sharks nosing around, the waters too clear.
Read More... Currumbin, Australia


Broome, Western Australia - A Jewel In The Rough Diamond of Australia

With good Broome accommodation in the Kimberly region of Western Australia, Broome hotels and resorts make a great base to explore the untouched environment of the Kimberley which I first discovered in 1974. Accommodation Broome-style used to be a bit rough in the 70's pioneer town I lived in but now the Broome resorts and Broome backpackers accommodation are world class Australian accommodation properties.

Broome can be reached by road or by plane from Perth, Darwin, Port Hedland or Bali.
The people of Broome are very friendly and relaxed. Many of them are Aboriginals. Sport and recreation is a large part of community life. Fishing in Broome is a popular recreational activity.
Broome has a great sub tropical climate and Broome's Cable Beach is one of the best beaches in the world (Cable beach, Broome is listed as one of the top 5 beaches in the world in top travel magazines).

Surfing at Cable Beach Broome in the dry season, April to Nov, is small, fast and enjoyable. During cyclones surf can get BIG at Grantheaume Point where seeing red sunsets and pindan (unique low native trees and bushes that thrive in the soils of the Kimberleys) are a must.

Also one of the biggest annual events is the Broome Races. The Races is a very popular Broome event and I recommend advanced Broome accommodation bookings.

In August Broome's main event is Shinju Matsuri (Festival of the Pearl). If you want to enjoy happy times of the festival, it pays to book your Broome accommodation well in advance.

When you first get into Broome and are ready to explore this incredible place your first stop should be the Broome Visitors Centre which you will find on the corner of Broome Hwy & Bagot St. Ph: 9192-2222 or make a freecall on 1800-883-777. They can offer you a wide array of information on what to see and how to get there. They will also point you towards the types of events and sights that are tailored to your particular needs. So no being shunted off to see something that just doesn't work for you!

A bit on the local weather
Max temp 32.1ºC (av)
Min temp 21.1ºC (av)
Annual rainfall 580 mms (about 24 inches)
How wonderful is that Broome weather? Couldn't get better could it?
The Northern parts of Australia experience only 2 seasons a year - The Wet and The Dry.
The Wet: Oct - Mar is the monsoon season with it's spectacular tropical thunderstorms and balmy nights. Warning: Be aware that some of the remote areas may not be accessible by motor vehicle and this includes 4-wheel drives because of the rains.
The Dry: Apr - Sept for those seeking the sun but don't forget your 30+ sunscreen
Broome Township 13,700
Local Radio Station

Check with the Broome Visitors Centre or the local Police before travelling into any remote areas. It is vital that you leave your travel details with Police and when you arrive safetly to let them know of your safe arrival. If you do NOT you could die (we have tourist that die regularly in the Australain Outback) or face a very heavy bill for any unnecessary rescue effort that may be instigated.

Places of Interest

Pearlers Row Gallery
The perfect place to see traditional Aboriginal ochre and art works. They also offer for sale work by local contemporary artists.

Anastasia's Pool
Located at Gantheaume Point and built of local sandstone by a former lighthouse keeper to help ease the pain suffered by his arthritic wife.

Bedford Park
Overlooking the spectacular Roebuck Bay. The park includes a replica of the chest that belonged to William Dampier, the discoverer of the area, the local War Memorial and numerous boab trees.

The Shell House
Developed from a private collection of shells from the waters of the local Kimberley coast. The collection, of over 6.000 shells, preserved fish and crustacea, is open to the public for viewing. It also contains a shop that sells souveneirs and Mother of Pearl items.

Broome Historical Society Museum
Well worth a visit and located in the Old Customs House.

Buccaneers Rock
Belived to be the location where William Dampier careened his ship The Roebuck. There is a plaque commemorating the event.

Anastasia's Pearl Gallery
The Gallery was established to be the local jewellry shop serving locals and visitors alike. But not only is there a wide array of pearl related jewellry but also diamonds (another big Kimberly industry) and other gemstone jewellry as well.

This business is a family affair and they will do all they can to make your visit something to remember.

Broome Bird Observatory
You will need transport to get to the observatory as it lays 25 kms east of the town (15 kms of unselaed roads).

The Broome Bird Observatory is recognised as one of the 5 top locations to observe wader bird in the world.

Broome Crocodile Park
Malcolm Douglas established the Crocodile Park in 1984 while a renowned producer of wildlife documentaries and adventure films. The park now houses over 4,500 crocodiles. There is also another area which is used to farm crocodiles for theior meat and skins. Please be aware that the crocodiles have not been removed from their natural habitats except where they have posed a danger to humans.

Captain Gregory's House
Built in 1917 by Capt Gregory on the corner of Hamersley and Carnarvon Streets in became his home and, being one of the most successful businessmen in the local pearling industry, it is a great example of what the richest people of the day selected as their suitable to house themselves and their families.

Cable Beach Camel Rides
One of the most unique experiences you can have in Broome is to take a camel ride along Cable Beach.

Each time of the day has its unique quality with an ride in the early evening probably the best for atmosphere as it offers you an opportunity to catch those incredible sunsets.

Courthouse Markets
These are the largest art and craft markets in the Kimberleys.
Held every Saturday morning on the corner of Frederick and Hamersley Streets between 8am - 1pm.

Massive array of arts and craft plus food and music - wonderful atmosphere.

A reminder of what this town used to be. in it's early heydays. It was here that the commercial and industrial ccntre of the town evolved with all its pearl sheds, saloons, entertainment houses and Chinese food halls.

The old Courthouse is built in distinctive 'Broome style' with which you will become very familiar with if you hang around Broome for a while.

The Court House was the original Cable House (that managed the telephone cable) after which Cable Beach is named.

Chinatown Markets
Normally on Sundays between 8am and 1pm in Johnny Chi Lane (seasonal). Large selection of local art and crafts.

Sinju Matsuri
The 'Festival of the Pearl' is held in Aug/Sept each year and celbrates the pearl harvest, the local Broome pearling industry and the town's multi-cultural heritage.

Cable Beach
The Beach is named after the telephone cable that was first laid to connect Australia with Indonesia. The beach lays 6 kms from the centre of Broome township. Cable Beach is one of the top 5 beaches in the world and streches for 22 kms with beautiful white sand and deep blue Indian Ocean waters. It is a safe bean on which to swim and there is a wide selection of beach activities you can enjoy.

Caution: Nov - Apr there can be box jellyfish and stingers in the water.

Gibb River Road Bus Services
This is a transport service between Kununurra and Derby 6 days a week. It will give you the opportunity to explore the Gibbs River Road. The Gibbs River Express is a luxury 4x4 air-conditioned bus that thravels the 700kms from Derby to Kununurra in 11 ½ hrs and offers access to all destinations along the route such as the gorges, cattle stations and holiday destinations.

If you're into bird watching, hiking, camping, wanting to see the incredible Kimberly gorges or want to experience life on a typical Aussie cattle station then this is the way to do it. Make your choices, stay where and when you want with a multi-stopover ticket. Runs May - Sept only.

Dinosaur Footprints
You can find footprints left behind by dinosaurs millions of years ago. Only visible duringa very low tide (1.5metres or lower). If the tides are too high you can always check out the casts that have been made that sit at the top of the cliffs.

If you do get the chance to walk out and check the footprints please ensure you take care of the reef environment as it is very fragile and also wear think soled shoes as stonefish are known to live on the reef.

Horizontal Falls Adventure Tours
There is only one way to really capture the grandeur of the Kimberley and that is from the air. Once you step aboard this turbo-prop seaplane you know you will experience something you will never forget.

Enjoy a relaxed flight to Talbot Bay where you will transfer to the vessel 'Rare Breed' to experience 'Horizontal Falls', described by David Attenborough as "one of the greatest wonders of the World" and experience the unbelievable tidal powers that can be found in the Kimberleys. You will be taken straight through the falls (tidal conditions permitting) - this you won't forget.

Flying Boat Wrecks
The remains of these flying boats can be found about 1 km offshore from Town Beach and are only visible at very low tides (be aware of the need for thick soled shoes. See warning immediately above). The flying boats were ferrying civilians from Indonesia during the early invasion of Indonesia by the Japanese when they were pounced upon as they landed in the waters near Broome. A number of people were killed and boats sunk. What you can see are the remnants of these flying boats that were sunk by the Japanese attack.

Chinatown Natural Healing Centre
If you need to relax or feel the need to refresh yourslef after a long and dusty trip then the Chinatown Natural Healing Centre is just what you need.

Massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, naturaphy or homeopthy - there are all available here.
There is also a wide array of related items on sale such as books, tapes, incense, cards, oils and essences.

Chinese Cemetry
Located on Port Drive you will find this one-of-a-kind cemetry. It is here that the early Chinese settlers (many pearl divers who died doing their job) can be found.
A camera is a must for this visit.

Deep Water Point
If you arrive by boat you will probably anchor here as it is the anchor point for all visiting vessels.
Here you will find the Broome jetty (great for fishing off) and a small sheltered beach for swimming (safe for children) and picnics. There are also restaurant and kiosk facilities.

Willie Creek Pearl Farm
Want to find out all you ccan about pearl farming as it is practised today? Wille Creek Pearl Farm is where you need to go.

At the farm (38kms north of Broome) you will understand how Broome develops the world's best cultured pearls. You will see the intricate art of seeding the shells so that they produce those wonderful round translucent gems of the sea. Discover the different types of pearl shells and get aboard the 'Willie Wanderer' to get to see the pearl shell beds in the creek.

Mamabulanjin Aboriginal Tours
The local indigenous people have a rich and diverse background. Mamabulanjin Tours offers visitors to Broome a wide range of indeigenous experiences including escorted bush walks, spear and boomerang throwing and local stories of The Dreamtime (or The Dreaming as it is sometimes called)

The tours can offer you an insight into the traditions, history and contemporary lifestlyes of the Broome Aborigines.

Staircase to the Moon
One of the most beautiful natural sights in Broome and seen across Roebuck Bay during a full moon, is the Staircase to the Moon.

The illusion of a staircase reaching up to the moon is caused by the moons reflection on the wet mud flats - a tedious explanation for a wonderful sight.

Gecko Gallery
Located in the heart of Chinatown the gallery is Broome's best gallery for local Aboriginal fine art. These art works are for sale and the gallery is also an outlet for drawing and painting supplys if you need them to capture, in your own way, your visions of this land.

A Bit of Broome History

The local indigenous people, the Yawuru, have lived in the area for many hundreds (some say thousands) of years. There is also evidence that people sailed all the way from Malaya and Indonesia in search of turtles, dugong and pearls.

Dugong feeding just off Broome William Dampier was the first European to visit the area in 1688 and Roebuck Bay was named after his ship the HMS Roebuck. But it wasn't until almost 200 years later that the town was officially recognised and named after the then Governor of the State, Sir Frederick Napier Broome.

It was the discovery of the world's largest pearl oyster (Pinctada maxima - producer of the White South Sea and Golden South Sea Pearls) that saw the beginings of the industry that has, over the years, made Broome famous - pearling!

In the 1910's Broome producted over 80% of the world's Mother of Pearl shell used in the production of a wide array of decorative items from buttons, furniture and jewellry. It was in 1913 that the local pearling fleet (examples of which can still be seen in Broome) reached it's peak of over 400 vessels.

The industry was very profitable for the ships Captains but the divers faced real dangers from sharks, sea snakes (the most venemous in the world), cyclones (submerged divers were cut adrift if one appeared over the horizon to allow the vessel to run for safety), drowning when equipment broke or was faulty and the 'bends' (an agonising death).

The invention of the plastic button in the 1950's saw the rapid decline of the Mother of Pearl industry. However, in the late 50's the industry started a recovery as the cultured pearling industry took off. By the 70's Broome could again boast that it was the centre of the world's pearling industry meeting over 70% of the world's demand.

In the 80's another industry started to impact upon Broome and this time it was people - tourists in fact. These days Broome hosts over 100,000 tourists a year and the numbers continue to rise as new resorts are built and older hotels refurbished. The real changes started when the road between Port Hedland and Broome was finally sealed allowing people to drive all the way in relative safety and comfort.

Broomes Cable Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and the pindan cliffs (soils this time rather than the vegetation. See above), stark white sands and clear bblue waters of the Indian Ocean are part of this exotic towns appeal. Chinatown boasts an unusual style all of it's own which is a blend of Australian Colonial/Asian developed in the early days of the settlement and still surviving today.

Broome is also a haven for those of us who live the sport of fishing. There is either the massively long jetty (watch the local kids catch fish you would kill to catch yourself with only a line, hook and a birds feather as a lure), or in one of the many tidal creeks. But be aware that local King Tides can be dangerous and it is strongly advised to obtain a tide chart from the Broome Visitors Centre.
Read More... Broome, Western Australia - A Jewel In The Rough Diamond of Australia


Mono Lake

Mono Lake (rhymes with "OH no") is the largest natural lake completely within the state of California. Once endangered when water feeding it was diverted toward the Los Angeles basin, it lost half its volume in the 40 years before an agreement was reached to save it. Today's Mono Lake is 7 vertical feet lower than the targeted level, and it could take well into the 2010's before it reaches that depth.

The best-known feature of Mono Lake are its dramatic tufa (TWO-fuh) towers. Over time, rainfall at Mono Lake did not keep up with evaporation, and minerals in the water built up until the lake is now 2 1/2 times as salty and 80 times as alkaline as the ocean. When the lake level was higher, freshwater springs flowed into the lake under the surface and reacted with the lake's minerals to form the dramatic cement-like calcium carbonate spires and towers that line Mono Lake shores today, looking like abandoned ancient cities.

Things to Do at Mono Lake

Mono Lake is beautiful when viewed from any direction. Visitors who take the time will also find a lot to do here:
·    Mono Lake Visitor Center: At this center just off US 395, you can view exhibits about the area's history
·    South Tufa Reserve: The most dramatic tufa towers are here, and you can walk among them.
·     Naturalist Tours: In summer, join a tour  of the tufa towers
·     Photography: The Mono Lake tufa towers make dramatic photographs, especially with colorful skies behind them. Depending on the day, sunrise and sunset can both present spectacular photo opportunities. If you choose to go at sunset, get there at least an hour before the "official" sunset time, as the sun sinks below the mountains earlier than you might think.
·     Lake Tours: The best way to get to know Mono Lake is to get out on it. You can take a canoe tour with Caldera Kayaks or one sponsored by the Mono Lake Committee.

Getting to Mono Lake

The Mono Lake visitor center is located just off US 395 north of Lee Vining. The South Tufa Reserve is east of US 395 on CA 120.
Read More... Mono Lake


Cable Beach

Cable Beach is a 22km-long stretch of purest white beach where Broome meets the Indian Ocean. The stunning colours of Cable Beach stunning colours - aqua blue against the white sand and bright red-orange dirt inspire photographers from dawn till dusk daily. 

Cable Beach is named as the terminus of the original cable used to send telegraphs between Java and Broome.

The Cable House, which later became Broome Courthouse, is situated in the centre of Broome and was built to house the equipment and telegraphists that operated the early communication service. The Court House is an excellent example of the colonial architecture of the day; wide verandas, polished timer floors, iron roof, overhead fans and the heavy iron stairs are particularly elegant. 

Today, Cable Beach is a long, flat beach that is ritualistically used by locals and tourists each day to wash away the cares of living in paradise. The sand is smooth and bright white, the water is cool and clear.

The beach is punctuated with rock pools where octopus and other creatures wait for the tide to take them back to the deep. At this time, vehicles are still permitted to drive onto the northern side of Cable Beach, and a blind eye is turned to those who choose to sunbath au naturelle in that part of the beach.

Cable Beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing. Cable Beach is washed clean everyday by the massive tides that ebb and flow into Broome. Beachcombers can find beautiful shells and many a piece of flotsam and jetsam washed ashore. Whales and dolphins can also been offshore in season.

The construction surrounding Cable Beach is remarkably humble and it is very far from being commercialised. A restaurant and cafe with ocean views sits on the grass overlooking Cable Beach. Each evening as the sunsets over the Indian Ocean across Cable Beach, the esplanade is lined with visitors from all parts of the world, with cameras ready to catch the perfect Broome sunset.
Read More... Cable Beach